Sessions creates unit to go after doctors, pharmacies pushing opioids

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his department's next step in battling opioid abuse: A new team dedicated to clamping down on a major source of the drugs.

Sessions described the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit as a "data analytics program." It'll study information about opioid prescriptions — like which doctors overprescribe pain pills — and use its findings to prosecute opioid-related health care fraud.

This is a pilot program; Sessions assigned 12 prosecutors to investigate and prosecute opioid-related fraud in 12 districts around the lower 48 states.

Sessions recently announced sweeping arrests of more than 400 people involved in health care fraud. More than 120 of those arrested were dealing in opioids or other narcotics. 

The Trump administration has picked up its focus on opioid abuse — the White House opioid commission recently said the U.S. was "in a crisis" and lobbied President Trump to declare a state of emergency.

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Since 1999, opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled — now, more than three out of every five drug overdose deaths involve some type of opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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